The Seattle Reign kicked off their first match since their massive offseason overhaul on a chilly, windy night at Husky Stadium Thursday evening. Starting a team of mostly reserves and finishing with a team heavy on trialists, they still didn't have much trouble dispatching the Washington Huskies.
This was a Reign lineup mostly devoid of stars. The only national team player to play was Nahomi Kawasumi, leaving off all of Kim Little, Jess Fishlock, Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux, Hope Solo, and Stephanie Cox. That reduced the glamour and talent of the team but it gave us a great chance to see how the reserves could be used.
Starting in goal was Haley Kopmeyer behind a back line of Elli Reed, Kate Deines, Lauren Barnes, and the recently signed draftee Megan Brigman. In front of them was a holding midfield pair of Keelin Winters and Kendall Fletcher behind attacking midfielder Danielle Foxhoven in the middle. On the wings were Kawasumi on the right and first round draft pick Amanda Frisbie on the left, behind Bev Goebel as the lone forward.
It's probably a mistake to draw too many conclusions from the lineup with so many starters not playing, but it's worth noting Deines starting at center back and Frisbie starting at left wing. One of the bigger roster questions coming into preseason is whether Laura Harvey intends to play Frisbie in defense, where she excelled last year for Portland, or in attack, where she excelled all of her other years for Portland. Also, Deines was captain, which may be significant or may have just been a nod to the fact that she was returning to play the UW after being one of the most important players in the program's history.
The main dynamic of the match was the Reign trying to break down the compact defense of the Huskies, who were happy to bunker up against pro opposition and try to counter, mostly through Amanda "Veronica's Sister" Perez. Those counters were occasionally dangerous and Kopmeyer couldn't just nap the whole match, but Seattle was on the front foot all match and it eventually overwhelmed the Huskies.
Most of Seattle's danger came through the wings and balls crossed or cut back to the box. In the 11th minute it was just such a cross after a set piece that Deines rose up to head in to open the scoring. That held for a while until just before halftime Foxhoven had a bullet header that was well saved by Husky keeper Megan Kufeld, but on the ensuing corner Foxhoven got her revenge when she finished up a scramble to make it 2-0.
In the second half, the UW opened up a bit and that gave them some chances to cut the deficit, but it opened the floodgates for Seattle. Halfway through the second half Naho got behind the fullback and cut back a perfect, low cross to the top of the box where Fletcher one-timed a shot for goal #3. Then two minutes later Frisbie cut in to take a diagonal shot, which was saved by Kufeld but spilled to Goebel, who tapped it in for #4. And the scoring was finished off a few minutes from time when Naho played in Goebel, who artfully tapped the ball around a defender and cut it back from the endline for trialist Lyndsey Patterson (who played for the team last year as well as the Sounders Women before that). Patterson finished it easily for #5.
The second half included a few reserve players subbing in, including Patterson and fellow ex-Sounders Women Julia Roberts. The Reign's signing of Brigman earlier in the week technically fills the roster at 20 players, but they have a chance to stay on with the reserve team, the Issaquah Soccer Club.
It's easy to say a big win over a college team isn't a big deal, but NWSL teams have regularly been drawing or edging college teams by a single goal this preseason. This was an impressive victory for a team missing most of its stars, powered by some great play on the wings. Deines was particularly impressive in defense, which may help convince Harvey to give her a starting job in defense, where she's competing with Carmelina Moscato and possibly Frisbie.
Also looking very good was Goebel. She's unique on the team as a tall, physical presence at target forward, but she also has good touch, as her late assist demonstrated. She'll expect to be behind Leroux at forward, but she'll certainly see time as a sub and with the national team players planning to miss at least a few matches, I'd expect her to get starts as well.
This was also the first match in the new kits revealed this week, and they are sharp. Just about anything would be an upgrade over the very basic template the team (and most of the rest of the league) used last season, but the black and blues with the accent color on the side is a great, memorable look. Also, that's a slimming design, which doesn't matter much for the players but will probably help me out.
The next preseason match is on Saturday at
4 6 against Seattle Pacific, at the Reign's new home field at Memorial Stadium.